About community information districts
Community information districts, or info districts, were developed at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York in 2016. They are special service districts that are established specifically to serve the local news and information needs of the communities that create and fund them.
Info districts are established democratically — via ordinance or referendum — and funded by fees assessed on residents and business owners in that community. They mimic other special districts that provide basic public services, including water, sanitation, or business improvement districts.
A community information district is overseen by a nonprofit, community-managed organization. The nonprofit’s board consists of community information stakeholders. A board might consist of a combination of local journalists, educators, librarians, residents, business owners, civic technologists, and a minimum of local government appointees.
The board’s function is to oversee and approve the funding of local news and information projects. Communities' shape their info districts through needs assessments and engagement campaigns. Info districts could allocate funding through a participatory budgeting process and hold regular referendums to vote to reauthorize the info district.
Funds could support everything from launching or supporting print or online newspapers, livestreaming town council meetings, building public wifi networks, convening community forums or media literacy classes, launching a text message and email alert system, or maintaining and developing chatbots that answer locally relevant questions, like “Is alternate side parking in effect?”
Info districts are established and exist because they bring people together to understand how to serve them. Stimulating civic engagement in this way is how the Community Information Cooperative will fulfill its mission and help communities cultivate healthier local economies and democracies.